The Adventure Story

Recently, I started thinking about why Adventure games “died” in the late-90s, only to have a resurgance of popularity now, in the mid-2010s. Is it simple nostalgia? Is everyone who “grew up” on the game just get bored of them, and now are thinking back fondly? Or is there something specific to the ideal “Adventure” story structure that no longer resonated with us by 2000, but we’re again thirsty for, 10-15 years later?

Then, the other day, someone mentioned that they haven’t seen an “epic adventure” movie for a long time. Yet, we’ve been fed a steady stream of LOTR/The Hobbit movies. There is clearly something to an “Adventure” story that isn’t the same as following someone on the Hero’s Journey, or even the alternate journey that I’ve talked about a few posts ago.

Question: What do Ferris Bueler, Westley, and Indiana Jones have in common?

Answer: They all star in movies where they don’t really grow as a result of the journey.

Ferris Bueler is just awesome from the start. He has his tricks, he has his goals. He incites change in those around him, prompting their growth.

Westley knows about True Love from the start of the movie. He’s just so sure of everything while Buttercup gets all worried and dithers and has nightmares. Is Westley at the end of the movie very different to the Farm Boy? Not significantly, and any changing that he does happens outside the main storyline. His strength of character is even supposedly what saves his life and allows him to return. He didn’t grow as a person, really- he just learned new skills.

Indiana Jones, likewise, has a set character, even if he has two manifestations of it. He can take anything that’s thrown at him.

In fact, the epitome of this type of character was Ian Flemming’s original James Bond:

When I wrote the first one in 1953, I wanted Bond to be an extremely dull, uninteresting man to whom things happened; I wanted him to be a blunt instrument … when I was casting around for a name for my protagonist I thought by God, (James Bond) is the dullest name I ever heard.

Why do we love these characters? I don’t know for sure, but to me they offer reassurance that, no matter what may happen. there is always a way of getting through whatever life may throw at you. I don’t think we actively “learn” from these characters and their experiences in the way we would vicariously “grow up” and reach our potential following the Hero’s Journey, or learn societal rules or what personality traits are unfavourable following a Tragedy, but instead there is just a feeling coming out of these stories of, “phew, we survived!”

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